The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

Wargaming rules post collection

Posted By on June 27, 2015

So, I’ve been wanting to do a couple of these posts for awhile, one for wargames and one for roleplaying games. This is the one about wargaming. I’ll break it down by scale (meaning the size of miniatures) and scale (meaning the size of the engagement), the latter which I’ll call “scope” for clarity, and Genre. I’m ignoring genres or scales which I don’t play.

  • Scale: 15mm-30mm (one figure per base)
    • Scope: Platoon to company size (15 – 250 soldiers) (aka “army”)
      • Genre: Modern/SciFi
        • One Page 40K – This is basically the only game in town for games of this scale. All the other ones I’ve tried are just a boring slog which take too long to play. This is largely because they’re “scaled up” skirmish games. OnePage rules sacrifices a lot of fiddly bits (namely, weapon strength and rate of fire are aggregated together into the number of dice rolled, and the different models’ strength, toughness, and separate melee and ranged skills are aggregated together into a single quality number). The overall goals are fun and simplicity, and I’m finding that this leads to more tactical depth, because you can focus on tactics and not get hung up on the crunch. The rules aren’t currently generic, but they aim to be once they get the bugs worked out of the point calculation system.
    • Scope: Squad to platoon size (4 – 15 soldiers), maybe a little bigger (aka “skirmish”)
      • Genre: Modern/SciFi
        • One Page 40K This is the scaled down version of the One Page 40K rules. I have not played this extensively. As above, it is not currently generic, but intends to be.
        • Zed Or Alive is a modern post-zombie-apoc skirmish game. Uses the Savage Worlds Showdown engine, which is familiar to me. It’s less wargame-y and more “RPG light”. It is miniatures agnostic with point values for unit creation.
        • This is Not a Test is a near future postnuclear skirmish game, which throws a pile of different tropes together and hits blend. It’s pretty obviously heavily influenced by the Wasteland and Fallout series of games, as well as tabletop campaign-oriented skirmish games like Necromunda. It is miniatures agnostic with point values for unit creation.
        • Pulp City is a superheroes game, with mechanics that fit the theme and a rich backstory, and rules for doing all the fun pulpy stuff you’d like to do. It’s designed for play with their miniatures, and no unit creation rules are provided.
      • Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk
        • Warmachine and Hordes are a superbly balanced, well-modeled, strongly thematic, nominally skirmish pair of games which are widely played and I highly recommend. (Warmachine is based around the command of steam-powered robots, Hordes is based around the command of large creatures, and the two systems are compatible, so a Warmachine army can fight a Hordes army without issue). My only drawback to it is that I get burnt out on it because I love SF stuff and start to miss it. But, that’s not the game’s fault, it’s my malfunction.
  • Scale: Smaller than 15mm.
    • Genre: Space ships
      • Firestorm Armada is a space ship game which hits all the happy buttons with regards to space ship combat. It’s not generic per-se, but there are various homebrew points systems for creating ships, which I’ve found to work out to be pretty balanced.
      • Full Thust deserves an honorable mention. I very much like this system, but Liz doesn’t, mainly because of the pre-plotted movement. She vastly prefers the alternating system of Firestorm Armada and, while we could use the Firestorm Armada movement system with Full Thrust, it’s easier to just make up ship cards in Firestorm Armada.
      • X-Wing is a really good game and has the distinction of having the only movement pre-plotting mechanic which Liz likes (because it’s done very quickly and unobtrusively). Plus, the minis are prepainted, so it’s really a “pick it up and play” gateway game (or game for the busy gamer). I like the system so much, I may try to port it to the now defunct Crimson Skies game, because I have a pile of those planes, but everyone hates the movement system (alternatively, I’d use an alternating system, not unlike Firestorm Armada).
    • Genre: Naval
      • Dystopian Wars. So, I don’t generally like naval games. They just don’t really appeal to me. The exception is that very narrow period of time which was WWI-WWII, with large battleships with big guns with lots of aircraft flying around. Dystopian wars hits this in a Victorian SF setting, so you get a pile of weird things (cloaking devices, tesla guns, flying ships, etc.). It is non-generic. You use their minis and unit cards. There are no unit creation rules.
    • Genre: Land
      • Dystopian Wars covers land warfare too, with the same notes as above.
      • I don’t have a generic one. I’m looking. I own several, but I don’t really like them. I’m waiting for the One Page Rules guys to come out with something in this scale (likely called 1pEpic or something like that, after the now-defunct Epic 40k game, but the key here is that is must be generic. I have a pile of modern microarmor, as well as a bunch of epic 40k stuff, and I’d like to be able to use all of it under the same ruleset. In the One Page Rules Forums, some folks have reported success using the One Page Kill Team rules in that scale, and that’s not a bad approach. I mean, when engaged, infantry will either get killed, driven back, or pinned (called stunned). This makes sense. I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense with vehicles, but I could be sold on it – they either blow up, back off, or get rattled and don’t act. Fair enough. However, there aren’t rules for making units, nor are there some units that are really common in epic 40k games. It also is kind of an “all or nothing” killing of units rather than a graceful degradation of capabilities, like there is in the Dystopian Wars ruleset.. which may be another option – come up with a points system which works and use those rules. Not sure.
      • Dirtside II is a solid generic contender, but I need to play it more to determine if I really like it.
      • Axles and Alloys Post apoc automobile warfare with kitbashed matchbox/hot wheels cars. This is kind of its own thing, and is just fun.
      • Battletech: Alpha Strike This is a giant stompy robots (and, actually, airplanes, tanks and other combined arms) in the future game, and is a streamlined version of the regular Battletech game. This allows for both larger games playable in a normal time frame, or the same sized games as regular Battletech, but played in a shorter time frame. Liz and I played a 2 on 2 battle in half an hour, and that was while learning the rules. The game is fast, brutal, dynamic and, while the rules cover all situations, they are pretty simple, while keeping the real flavor of Battletech. As with other rules discussed in this post, they get out of their own way, and make you want to focus on campaigns and strategy, and not making sure you get the rules correct, because doing so is simple.
    • Genre:Air
      • Dystopian Warscovers air warfare too, with the same notes as above.
      • I don’t have a generic one here either. I’d love to use my Crimson Skies planes, but there are two problems with those rules as written:
        1. Liz hates pre-plotted movement.
        2. I don’t like the way the guns are done – large caliber guns make big holes at short range. Small caliber guns make small holes at long range. I get why they do this (game balance), but it’s kind of annoying.
        There are a couple of ways to fix these items. I’ll take them in order, using the same numbers as above.
        1. The simple solution is to not pre-plot movement. Have the activations alternate between players, even better, happen based on pilot skill. This is how most of the games detailed above work. Alternatively, you can borrow from X-Wing, which does pre-plot movement, but uses a really good mechanic for doing so (namely, a little dial which you set then put upside down near the ship or plane). With the advent of 3D printers, making your own really nice looking ones becomes easier.
        2. There are a couple of steps to fix this. The first is to rework the ranges so small caliber has a short range and large caliber has a long range. However, you need some type of way to keep it in balance. Options:
          • Limit ammo for larger caliber ones (this ends up requiring more bookkeeping, which is not great).
          • Let smaller caliber stuff shoot more (roll more dice). This results in rolling buckets of dice.
          • Make smaller guns cost less in terms of game points.
          I’m not certain which is correct. It also influences how damage is recorded. The original game uses sheets where you color in boxes for your planes as they get damaged, which is a lot of fun to watch your plane get shot up. But, if you let some guns shoot more, you end up having planes get shot down more quickly. If you drop this requirement, and give each plane a certain amount of damage it can soak before it gets destroyed, then that works, and is pretty conventional. So, yeah, I’m not sure what to do here, which is why I’ve done nothing. If anyone knows of a good set of generic airplane rules, leave a comment.

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